Can Anxiety Cause Atrial Fibrillation?


Atrial fibrillation (AF) is the most common sustained cardiac arrhythmia, affecting millions of people worldwide. While anxiety and depression have been hypothesized to contribute to the development of AF through the activation of the autonomic nervous system, there is limited research on the association between these mental health symptoms and AF risk. This blog post presents the results of a population-based study aiming to assess this connection.


The study entitled "Symptoms of anxiety and depression and risk of atrial fibrillation—The HUNT study" followed 37,402 adult residents from 2006 to 2008 until 2015, monitoring them for incident AF. Participants were grouped based on their self-reported anxiety and depression symptoms. The researchers employed Cox proportional regression models to adjust for common AF risk factors and to determine the association between anxiety and depression symptoms and the risk of developing AF.


During the median follow-up period of 8.1 years, 1433 (3.8%) participants developed AF. When comparing participants with no anxiety symptoms to those with mild to moderate anxiety symptoms, the multivariable-adjusted hazard ratios (HRs) were 1.1 (95% CI: 0.9–1.5). For severe anxiety symptoms, the HR was 1.0 (95% CI: 0.8–1.4). Comparing those with no depression symptoms to those with mild to moderate depression symptoms, the multivariable-adjusted HRs were 1.5 (95% CI: 1.2–1.8). For severe depression symptoms, the HR was 0.9 (95% CI: 0.6–1.3). Recurrent anxiety and depression symptoms did not show an association with increased AF risk.


The results of this extensive population-based study suggest that there is no significant association between anxiety or severe depression symptoms and the risk of developing AF, even in cases of recurrent anxiety or depression symptoms. However, an unexpected association was observed between mild to moderate depression symptoms and increased AF risk. This finding warrants further investigation in future studies to confirm its validity. This study contributes valuable insights to the limited body of research on the relationship between anxiety, depression, and atrial fibrillation risk.

A note from Big Northern Bear

I have found Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to be incredibly helpful and have reduced my anxiety and its ability to derail my life by at least half.

I think CBT is better than any drug.

Consider a self-training book such as one of these

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